Could All Football Be Canceled This Fall?

Photo: Empty Neyland Stadium, viewed from the Southeast Upper Deck, courtesy of Zereshk at English Wikipedia.
Photo: Empty Neyland Stadium, viewed from the Southeast Upper Deck, courtesy of Zereshk at English Wikipedia.

This past year, college football celebrated its 150th season, but whether there will be a 151st season this year is now a serious question for many.

At Appalachian Magazine, we have promised our readers to keep all talk about COVID-19 to a minimum, instead, focusing on the many things that are uplifting, both in our region’s past and present; however, a recent statement by famed football analyst Kirk Herbstreit has left us worried and feeling the need to at least prepare the legions of college and pro football fans throughout our region of what may be in store for us in the months ahead.

TMZ is reporting that in an interview Thursday with ESPN radio, Herbstreit stated that he’d be “shocked” if either the NFL or college football played in the fall of 2020.

“I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football. I’ll be so surprised if that happens,” Kirk said, adding, “Just because from what I understand, people that I listen to, you’re 12 to 18 months from a vaccine. I don’t know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don’t know how you can do it with the optics of it… Next thing you know you got a locker room full of guys that are sick. And that’s on your watch? I wouldn’t want to have that. As much as I hate to say it, I think we’re scratching the surface of where this thing’s gonna go.”

Though we’re still roughly five months away from college football’s opening kickoff weekend and there has been no official decision to cancel or even delay games by any league or conference, the impact of COVID-19 is impacting the sports’ schedules.

On Thursday, Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby joined Herbstreit in his pessimism by conceding the possibility that the fall 2020 college football season could be in jeopardy.

Texas’ Star Telegram reported, “During an hour-long teleconference with reporters on Thursday afternoon, Bowlsby provided straight-forward answers without sugarcoating anything. With all of the spring sports being canceled, the big topics now center on football and the financial impact being felt by the conferences and universities across the country.”

The Conference Commissioner stated, “If that doesn’t happen [fall football season], the underpinning of what we know as normal goes away and we’ll have some major changes to make.”

College athletic directors thus far have made no formal statements but it’s obviously quickly becoming central on everyone’s radar, especially given the reality that the commissioner shot down any possibility that spring practices or spring games will be held in the near future.
College football has been played every year since 1869, including through both World Wars, the Spanish Flu pandemic and the Great Depression — a decision to cancel football this fall would be both historic and unprecedented.  If a decision is made, it likely will not be made until late-May or June and you can bet that the financial and cultural ramifications will be big.
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Could All Football Be Canceled This Fall?